I love French. I started learning it when I signed up for French in eighth grade--and I haven't stopped since. I went to French camp, I studied it through high school and college, and spent time speaking it in France and Switzerland. I then taught it in middle school and high school for seven years. French was my first experience learning a language, and I still associate it with the absolute magic of using a foreign language for real conversations for the first time.
Most recently, I've gotten to tutor two of my nieces in French. My sisters tell me they love the language, too. And when one of my sisters called me up asking for French-related birthday present ideas for my niece, I got excited, and immediately started thinking through tons of ideas. Soon, I knew I had to do a blog post on the topic.
This is the result: a gift guide for kids, tweens, and teens who love French (don't worry, an adult version is coming soon!). I've included both language- and culture-focused gifts. There are great ideas for beginning through advanced learners of the language, in addition to gifts that aren't focused on the language. I hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed putting them together.
Please note: I've included links to Amazon products in this post. If you choose to purchase through the links, a small percentage of what you pay goes to support this website without changing the cost to you.
Gifts for the kid, tween, or teen who loves French
French-language activity books (with word searches, coloring pages, etc.)
When I was a beginning French student, I got so excited to see things that were in French in real life. Even so, it can be discouraging to hand a beginner something like a novel in French, because they often can't understand a lot of the language used.
That's why I love these French-language activity books. They include things like word searches, coloring pages, and puzzles--along with lots of pictures and simple language. It's thrilling for a beginning learner to get something in French, but also be able to understand what's going on in them--and even interact with them. The books are an accessible and fun way to see, use, and learn more of the French language.
The classic French-style striped shirt ("breton")
In English, we call it a "breton," in French, it's called a "marinière." It's one of the things that readily come to mind when we think of things stereotypically "French." But it isn't just a cliché--it really is French, and, unlike the beret, it really is worn in France (just check out this video from Paris Match with style advice).
The breton has been in style for decades for a reason. In my opinion, it goes with just about anything, and always looks nice. My first breton was a hand-me-down from a French roommate (I'm not kidding), which I wore into the ground. I currently own the Tulucky shirt I've listed here--it's cheap, but it's great! I've also included a girls version for younger French-lovers.
An interactive journal
An interactive journal is another example of something that's really in French, but that is still approachable and accessible. This gender-neutral one has some simple prompts, as well as lots of space to just write.
World map labeled in French
French is a very international language. It is an official language in 29 countries, with major populations of speakers in Europe, Africa, and North America, and smaller groups in Asia, South America, and Oceania.
This is a world map...but one labeled in French. It's exciting for French students to have something from the real world in French, but this is also a gift that acknowledges the truly international character of the language.
French-language tee shirts
A great way to show your love for the French language is by wearing it! This selection of tee shirts include men, women, and youth sizes. Curious about what they say? We have bonjour ("hello"), merci beaucoup ("thank you very much"), la vie est belle ("life is beautiful"), and je parle français ("I speak French").
West-African style drum ("tambour" or "djembe")
French is not just spoken in France! A whopping 31 countries in Africa use the language, making Africa the continent with the most French speakers in the world.
One of my all-time favorite language-learning experiences was learning djembe drumming in French from a teacher from the Francophone country of Chad. The djembe drum is an accessible instrument and an awesome way to learn more about the Francophone world.
Eiffel Tower model kit
Maybe the most famous French symbol? Paris' Eiffel Tower. This wooden model is suitable for ages 8 and up, and is about 16" when completed.
These are a happy, colorful way to decorate a bedroom. With French spoken across the globe, you have a lot of options, too. My personal favorite flag comes from the tiny, French-speaking African island nation The Seychelles (shown here fourth from the left).
I was delighted when I first found these French-language stamps, and loved using them on my students' assignments as a French teacher. They're something fun and interactive for the young person who loves French, too.
Here's what they say (going from left to right): très bien ("very good"), parfait ("perfect"), magnifique ("magnificent"), splendide ("splendid"), joyeuses fêtes ("happy holidays").
Vintage French posters
These bright, art nouveau posters are another gift that feels classically "French." And don't worry, all the ones shown here are appropriate for minors (no absinthe ads!).
These stickers have phrases on them like très bien ("very good") and génial ("brilliant"). They're a fun way for beginners to see the French language put to use.
For intermediate and advanced learners of French
A few more gift ideas. These are for young people who have spent more time with the language, who won't be frustrated when more of it is used.
I first saw this cute little book of jokes and riddles in a Paris bookstore. It includes lots of illustrations, which make understanding the jokes easier. I find it especially delightful when I find a joke that includes a pun that wouldn't translate to English.
The Little Prince
The Little Prince, or Le Petit Prince, was written in French by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry in 1943. The children's story addresses loneliness, friendship, love, and loss.
The book has been hugely popular for generations now. I meet people who are absolutely in love with it, and read it over and over. I've read the book, and I have to say that personally, it just doesn't resonate with me. Still, I can acknowledge that it's a classic, that it's beloved, and that it's very French--making it a great gift for someone who loves the language.
A French version of a familiar book like Harry Potter can be very exciting for a French-language learner, and give them motivation to practice their reading skills. And already knowing the story can help a learner understand more of the language included in the book.
The Harry Potter books are also enjoyable to read in French because they teach you fun vocabulary (like "wand" and "magic") that don't really come up in classes. It's also exciting to discover what terms got "translated" with the language change (like how Slytherin becomes Serpentard, and Ravenclaw becomes Serdaigle).
Learning French helps you discover the world, learn about people who are different from you, and increase your communication skills. I hope these gifts help encourage the process of language-learning, as well as the excitement and magic of that process.